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A federal appeals court recently ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to ban the entire class of chlorpyrifos-containing pesticides in the United States. The decree, while still subject to further delays and appeals, marks a major victory for environmental and public health groups.

This is not the first time these pesticides have been banned. As we reported in a previous article, the EPA overturned a ban on chlorpyrifos in March 2017. The decision was largely carried out by Scott Pruitt, then administrator of the EPA under the Trump administration (his own staff at the EPA recommended that chlorpyrifos-containing products be taken off the market).

Throughout his tenure, Mr. Pruitt was the targeted recipient of intense lobbying on behalf of the pesticide industry—a cozy relationship that led to lavish spending, family favors, and other ethical scandals. Since the summer of 2017, Mr. Pruitt has become the subject of no less than thirteen federal investigations into these “legal and ethical violations,” and has since resigned.[1]

The recent ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was issued in response to a lawsuit filed by environmental groups shortly after the commercial ban was rejected by Mr. Pruitt. The court ruled that there was “no justification for the E.P.A.’s decision in its 2017 order to maintain a tolerance for chlorpyrifos in the face of scientific evidence that its residue on food causes neurodevelopmental damage to children,” and ordered the agency to enact a ban with sixty days.[2]

Studies show adverse effects on childhood neurological development

The EPA still maintains that their staff has been unable to “access” sufficient data to warrant an outright ban of chlorpyrifos, but most experts agree that this stock response is nothing more than a stall tactic originally conceived by Mr. Pruitt. There most certainly is sufficient data to warrant concern over chlorpyrifos toxicity, especially in children.

For example, one study carried out by researchers at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health reported “evidence of deficits in Working Memory Index and Full-Scale IQ” in seven-year-old children who had been exposed to chlorpyrifos-containing pesticides for all or most of their lives.[3]

Another study published in the journal Neurotoxicology examined the effects of prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos, and found it to be correlated with mild to moderate tremors in children, as well as an increased risk of more serious movement disorders.[4]

Despite the EPA’s reluctance, environmentalists are celebrating

The EPA hasn’t yet made it clear what their next action will be. The agency reserves the right to request a reconsideration of the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, to ask for an extension on the chlorpyrifos ban deadline, or to appeal to the Supreme Court.

As mentioned above, representatives still claim that they require more data in order to make their decision. Agency spokesman Michael Abboud stated that “the E.P.A. is reviewing the decision,” and explained that “the Columbia Center’s data underlying the court’s assumptions remains inaccessible and has hindered the agency’s ongoing process to fully evaluate the pesticide using the best available, transparent science.”

While loyalty to genuine, evidence-based science is certainly an admirable sentiment, the slowness of the E.P.A.’s actions is still strange. After all, the agency’s first priority is to protect the health of the environment and American citizens, not corporate interests—one would hope that any evidence that chlorpyrifos adversely affects children would spur at least some degree of swift regulatory action.

Despite these ambiguities, though, environmental activists view the Ninth Circuit’s ruling as cause for celebration.

For starters, the current ban is more all-encompassing than the one rejected by Scott Pruitt in 2017—it prohibits not only commercial household uses of chlorpyrifos (e.g. as an insecticide), but also all industrial use on farms. The previous ban still allowed farmers to legally use chlorpyrifos, a caveat with which environmentalists took issue, given that the chemical’s adverse effects have been shown to be especially pronounced in the children of farming families.

If the ban is enacted, it will be a huge blow to pesticide companies. Over fifty different crops—including a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains—are grown using chlorpyrifos-based pesticides. According to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, a whopping 640,000 acres of California farmland was treated with such pesticides in 2016 alone.[5]

Regardless, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling serves as a beacon of hope to many environmentalists who had begun to believe that not even the Environmental Protection Agency could be trusted to, well…protect the environment. The ruling demonstrates that evidence-based science and targeted activism, coupled with a well-functioning judicial system, can still triumph over corrupt politics and corporate cronyism.

With any luck, by the time farmers throughout the United States plant and harvest their next round of crops, law will require them to do so without toxic, chlorpyrifos-containing pesticides.

 


References

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/05/climate/scott-pruitt-epa-trump.html

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1003160/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26385760

[5] https://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/pur/pur16rep/chmrpt16.pdf

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It’s been a little while since we wrote about the toxins of modern living. Meanwhile, the world certainly isn’t getting any less toxic—our homes and belongings, the air we breathe, and the products we buy still pose potential risks to our health and well-being.

In past articles, we’ve outlined the dangerous toxins in a wide variety of everyday products, including clothing, cookware, cosmetics, deodorants, moisturizers, furniture, cleaning products, toothpaste, and more.   We’ve warned you about endocrine disruptors, toxic plastics and microbeads, and the tens of thousands of other toxic industrial chemicals with which modern life is saturated.

Let’s review some of the worst offenders (and how to avoid them). Thank you to Parasol for providing this excellent infographic!

Pesticides. We’ve written about the horrors of pesticides before. A staggering portion of the planet is now contaminated with glyphosate-containing pesticides like RoundUp, neonicotinoids, and other chemical concoctions that wreak havoc on the health of both the human body and the environment.[1]

Despite manufacturer assurances that there’s nothing harmful about pesticides, mounting evidence links pesticide contamination with cancer and a variety of other health problems, as well as collapsing bee colony populations.[2]

Pesticides are so prevalent that it can be difficult to avoid them—but you can minimize your exposure by always eating organic (you should especially avoid the “Dirty Dozen,” which are known to be the most highly pesticide-contaminated produce).  

Conventional cotton. Unfortunately, it’s not just food you need to be worried about when it comes to pesticide contamination. Cotton is one of the most pesticide-contaminated crops in the world—this means that these toxins end up in clothing made from conventional cotton, and are readily absorbed through the skin. And to make matters worse, some clothing has even been found to contain chlorine bleach, formaldehyde (that’s right, carcinogenic embalming fluid), and toxic plastics like perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs).[3]

Once again, you can easily protect yourself by choosing clothing made with organic cotton and natural materials such as hemp, bamboo, cork, and wool. Also, avoid “wrinkle-free” clothing like the plague, as it’s been shown to contain even higher levels of toxic PFCs and formaldehyde.

Diapers and toxic toys. It’s especially tragic that even baby-care products can be terribly toxic (and babies are more developmentally sensitive to toxin exposure than adults, so it’s imperative that you take steps to keeps industrial toxins away from your children).

Conventional disposable diapers contain irritating, toxic dyes, heavy metals, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as xylene, ethylbenzene, toluene, and dipentene. These chemicals not only cause painful diaper rashes for your baby, but are also linked with cancer, developmental issues, and other worrying health problems.[4] Similarly, many cheaply made children’s toys contain brominated flame retardants (BFRs), arsenic, and other heavy-duty toxins that are bioaccumulative (which means they cumulatively build up in bone and tissue and cause various long-term health issues).

Luckily, there are plenty of conscious companies that now offer both reusable and disposable diapers made from safe and organic materials, as well as non-toxic toys.

Cleaning products. The vast majority of cleaning products are anything but clean—they’re filled with a vast array of corrosive and health-sapping chemicals. And in the vast majority of cases, these powerful toxins are not even necessary for keeping your house clean; there are plenty of food-safe materials that work just as well, such as vinegar, orange oil, and baking soda.

Check out this article for tips on making your own safe and effective cleaning products from common household ingredients. It’s way easier than you might think, but even if you’re not the DIY type, there are plenty of safe and eco-friendly cleaning products available for purchase (just make sure you check the ingredients before buying anything).

 Beauty care products. The proliferation of toxic chemicals in nearly all beauty care products is a huge problem. Toxins are easily absorbed through the skin each and every time we use such products—yet because toxic bioaccumulation only causes health problems after a long period of time, manufacturers continue to get away with denying the dangers of their products.

Conventional make-up, shampoos and conditioners, moisturizers, lipstick, deodorants, and nearly every other common hygiene and beauty product are contaminated to some degree, so take great care in choosing which ones to purchase. You can even make your own beauty care products, cheaply and easily. In this article, we explain how you can replace a sizable portion of your beauty product repertoire with nothing but coconut oil.

Why it’s worth it to stay vigilant

It may seem overwhelming to have to think about all of these potential toxin sources—but it’s well worth the effort. The toxins in these products slowly (or not so slowly) undermine your health; the constant process of fending off toxins makes it dramatically more difficult for your body to resist disease and imbalance.

But by making a simple shift toward conscious, organic, chemical-free product brands (and by making your own self-care and home-care products whenever possible), you can give your body the helping hand it needs to stay strong, vibrant, and toxin-free.

 


References

[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0273122396007378

[2] http://science.sciencemag.org/content/356/6345/1393

[3] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151023084508.htm

[4] http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/116/3/e450.full?sid=a13491bc-4318-4181-940b-d3d406ec7427

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Infographic source